Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830

Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830

Article excerpt

Book Reviews The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830. By Matthew H. Crocker. Amherst, Mass., 1999 (University of Massachusetts Press, P. O. Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004.) $35.00.

Matthew H. Crocker's The Magic of the Many provides a detailed account of how the Federalist oligarchy that had long controlled Boston politics lost its grip on local affairs soon after the War of 1812. According to Crocker, the crucial turning point came between 1819 and 1822. A variety of factors-discontent arising from a severe depression and anger about the Federalist elite's policies with regard to taxation, building codes, and militia service - fed an insurgency among middle- and working-class Bostonians that successfully challenged Federalist hegemony in municipal politics.

Josiah Quincy, himself once closely associated with the Federalist elite, though in the late 1810s stridently independent of some of its policies, became the hero and leader of a coalition of Bay State Republicans and disaffected Federalists. Calling their coalition the Middling Interest, opponents of the ruling Federalist machine elected Quincy mayor of Boston in 1823 and reelected him annually in the next four mayoral contests, 1824-1827. Pursuing a program of municipal activism, Quincy reshaped Boston's public life, centralizing power in the mayor's hands, reforming and professionalzing the city's fire and social services departments, and undertaking a massive public works program highlighted by the construction of Quincy Market. …

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